Román Torres and Panama will have their hands full in Group G of the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they square off against Belgium, England and Tunisia, who have a combined FIFA ranking average of 12. Here’s what you need to know about Panama:
FIFA ranking: 55
Players to watch: Román Torres, Armando Cooper, Blas Pérez
- Monday, June 18: Panama vs. Belgium, Sochi, 8 a.m. PT
- Saturday, June 23: Panama vs. England, Nizhny Novgorod, 5 a.m. PT
- Thursday, June 28: Panama vs. Tunisia, Saransk, 11 a.m. PT
Panama are on the older side — starting forward Blas Pérez is 37 — as their veterans earned the right for one final hoorah in their first World Cup appearance. Los Canaleros struggled in pre-tournament friendlies against Switzerland and Norway and face much bigger obstacles in the names of Belgium and England. Torres will need to lead a defensively compact and organized back line and hope to steal a point or two from in their first two games before a must-win against Tunisia in the last group match.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what Torres & Co. are up against.
FIFA ranking: 3
Players to watch: Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard
Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (left) and Kevin de Bruyne | Reuters
One of the most talented teams in the world, Belgium has a quick and lethal offense led by heralded Spanish manager Roberto Martinez. Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne will boss the midfield while Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens wreak havoc on the wings to create space and opportunities for Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku.
FIFA ranking: 12
Players to watch: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling
Harry Kane celebrates his goal in a friendly against Nigeria | Reuters
A rather younger team than what the Three Lions are used to bringing to the World Cup, they’ll be looking to make their first semifinal appearance in 28 years. There are stars aplenty, from Tottenham goalscoring machine Harry Kane to Manchester United wunderkind Marcus Rashford, and Gareth Southgate’s squad has every intention of making a deep run in Russia.
FIFA ranking: 21
Players to watch: Wahbi Khazri, Saîf-Eddine Khaoui
Wahbi Khazri celebrates his goal in a friendly against Costa Rica | Reuters
The Eagles of Carthage will likely need to knock off Torres and Panama in the group finale if they want any chance of advancing to the Knockout Round. Nabil Maaloul’s side doesn’t have a ton of firepower, but a couple strong defensive efforts could book its ticket out of Group G.